Category Archives: Wash Post

Trump’s Bully Pulpit

In this picture doesn’t the President look as though his eyes wanted to stay closed? For to open them is to see the truly terrible things he has said and done.

President Trump at the White House on Monday. (Jabin Botsford

Trump speaks to the country in two opposing manners, by tweets and by telepromting. The tweets are his own, reflecting his own bigoted if not downright racist views. The words of the teleprompter are those of the people around him in the White House, his cronies, the few that are left and are still in his corner and trying to keep him standing, from going down for the full count.

From the editors of the Washington Post

PRESIDENT TRUMP controls the greatest loudspeaker in the world. On Monday, he said from the White House that “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” He added, “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.” Well put. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has recklessly used racism, bigotry and hatred for many years, in coded formulas and direct speech. To truly honor the victims of El Paso and Dayton, Mr. Trump should vow never again to spew his loathing from the bully pulpit.

Trump’s past loathings from the bully pulpit

Mr. Trump has stigmatized Mexicans since the day he announced his candidacy for president, and has spoken as though all Muslims are dangerous. He denounced Latino migration as “an invasion of our country,” demonizing undocumented immigrants as “thugs” and “animals.” At a rally in May in Panama City Beach, Fla., he asked, “How do you stop these people? You can’t.” Someone in the crowd yelled back one idea: “Shoot them.” The audience of thousands cheered — Trump smiled. Shrugging off the suggestion, he quipped, “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement.” When avowed white supremacists marched in Charlottesville in August 2017 and one of them drove his car into a crowd, killing a peaceful protester, Heather Heyer, Mr. Trump condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” as though others besides the white supremacists were to blame.

Mr. Trump wrote in January on Twitter, “More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted invasion of illegals through large Caravans into our country.” Mr. Trump also wrote last November that “the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it.” Before opening fire in El Paso and killing 22 innocent people, the 21-year-old alleged shooter wrote, “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Mr. Trump said in July, “Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was, and I don’t mean that in a positive way.” The shooter wrote, “The natives didn’t take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.”

The president’s words have wide and deep consequences. When he smears all Latinos or Muslims, announcing walls or visa bans to keep them out; when he denounces the news media as “enemies of the people,” using Stalinist terms; when he says four congresswomen of color should “go back” to the countries they came from — all these spread fear, exclusion and hatred.

By the Editorial Board of the Washington Post, August 5, 2019

Immigration in 1924

Another Must Read, by George Will

Last century’s immigration debate makes today’s seem enlightened
By George F. Will June 28, 2019

“The Guarded Gate,” by Daniel Okrent. (Scribner)

“Wide open and unguarded stand our gates,
And through them presses a wild motley throng . . .
O Liberty, white Goddess! is it well
To leave the gates unguarded?”
— Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1892)

If you think we have reached peak stupidity — that America’s per capita quantity has never been higher — there is solace, of sorts, in Daniel Okrent’s guided tour through the immigration debate that was heading toward a nasty legislative conclusion a century ago. “The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America” provides evidence that today’s public arguments are comparatively enlightened.

Late in the 19th century, immigration surged, as did alarm about it, especially in society’s upper crust — particularly its Boston portion, which thought that the wrong sort of people was coming. Darwinian theory and emerging genetic science were bowdlerized by bad scientists, faux scientists and numerous philistine ax-grinders with political agendas bent on arguing for engineering a better stock of American humans through immigration restrictions and eugenics — selective breeding.

Their theory was that nurture (education, socialization, family structure) matters little because nature is determinative. They asserted that even morality and individuals’ characters are biologically determined by race. And they spun an imaginative taxonomy of races, including European “Alpine,” “Teutonic” (a.k.a. “Nordic”) and “Mediterranean.”

Racist thinking about immigration saturated mainstream newspapers (the Boston Herald: “Shall we permit these inferior races to dilute the thrifty, capable Yankee blood . . . of the earlier immigrants?”) and elite journals (in the Yale Review, recent immigrants were described as “vast masses of filth” from “every foul and stagnant pool of population in Europe”). In the Century monthly, which published Mark Twain, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, W.E.B. Du Bois and H.G. Wells, an author informed readers that “Mediterranean people are morally below the races of northern Europe,” that immigrants from Southern Italy “lack the conveniences for thinking,” that Neapolitans were a “degenerate” class “infected with spiritual hookworm” and displaying “low foreheads, open mouths, weak chins . . . and backless heads,” and that few of the garment workers in New York’s Union Square “had the type of face one would find at a county fair in the west or south.” The nation’s most important periodical, the Saturday Evening Post, devoted tens of thousands of words to the braided crusades for eugenics and race-based immigration policies.

“The Great Race Passes”:
Edgar Lee Masters (“Spoon River Anthology,” wrote:
On State Street throngs crowd and push,
Wriggle and writhe like maggots.
Their noses are flat,
Their faces are broad . . .

Eugenics was taught at Boston University’s School of Theology. Theodore Roosevelt, who popularized the phrase “race suicide,” wrote to a eugenicist that “the inescapable duty of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world, and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.” Woodrow Wilson warned against the “corruption of foreign blood” and “ever-deteriorating” genetic material.

Amateur ethnologists conveniently discovered that exemplary Southern Europeans (Dante, Raphael, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci) were actually from the north. One wrote, “Columbus, from his portraits and from his busts, whether authentic or not , was clearly Nordic” (emphasis added). Okrent writes: “In an Alabama case, a black man who married an Italian woman was convicted of violating the state’s anti-miscegenation law, then found surprising absolution when the conviction was vacated by an appellate court’s provocative declaration: ‘The mere fact that the testimony showed this woman came from Sicily can in no sense be taken as conclusive evidence that she was therefore a white woman.’”

The canonical text of the immigration-eugenics complex, Madison Grant’s “The Passing of the Great Race,” is available today in at least eight editions and is frequently cited in the Internet’s fetid swamps of white-supremacy sites. At the 1946 Nuremberg “Doctors’ Trial,” Nazi defendants invoked that book as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s Buck v. Bell decision upholding states’ sterilization of “defectives” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a eugenics enthusiast: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”) and America’s severely restrictive Immigration Act of 1924. It based national quotas on 1890 immigration data — before the surge of the “motley throng.” Okrent writes, “These men didn’t say they were ‘following orders,’ in the self-exonerating language of the moment; they said they were following Americans.”

Four years before the 1924 act, 76 percent of immigrants came from Eastern or Southern Europe. After it, 11 percent did. Some of those excluded went instead to Auschwitz.

US Constitution in Intensive Care

Trump has made my political science students skeptical — of the Constitution

By David Lay Williams

They used to love the Federalist Papers. Now they see holes in the essays’ arguments.

June 7, 2019

Portrait of James Madison painted by John Vanderlyn. Madison was one of the three authors — along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton — of the Federalist Papers. (N/A/Courtesy of the Montpelier Foundation. )

Thomas Jefferson called “The Federalist” — the collection of essays written by John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in 1787 and 1788, urging ratification of the U.S. Constitution — “the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written.” Through the years, many others have echoed that high praise. The political writer George Will recently said the 85 essays, written for a few New York newspapers, under the pen name “Publius,” are surpassed as a work of political philosophy only by Aristotle’s “Politics.”

I’ve been teaching “The Federalist” to college students since I was a graduate student in the 1990s. While the arguments defending the Constitution’s provisions still stimulate students, I can report a striking change in their reactions to the work since the election of President Trump. Students today are far more skeptical of the argument in “The Federalist” that the Constitution’s famous checks and balances would be sufficient to keep a demagogue from attaining the presidency, for example — or exerting malign power should he attain office. They are dubious when Publius asserts that neither Congress nor the president could ever be susceptible to corruption, in part because of the Constitution’s structure. In short, they are more skeptical about the Constitution itself.

Smart students, of course, have always argued with some assertions in “The Federalist.” Some have always challenged Publius regarding the morally problematic compromises on slavery — the decision to allow the slave population to increase the voting power of slave states through the infamous three-fifths rule, for instance. They unsurprisingly object to the anti-democratic nature of the Senate (two senators per state, regardless of population) and the electoral college. Yet until now, there was a general sense in the classroom that these essays advanced a comprehensive, farsighted and relatively successful political philosophy — and that Americans have been largely lucky to have had the good fortune of such a founding.

But when I taught the seminar again this spring — for the first time since Trump’s election (I had last taught it in 2014) — the experience was radically different from anything had encountered before. The students approvingly noted that Hamilton was aware of the danger of states succumbing to the rhetoric of aspiring leaders who “beg[an] their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants” (Federalist 1). But they pointed out that the system Publius defends led to the election of a president who makes outlandish claims about the “tremendous crime” immigration brings, exaggerates violence in urban areas like Chicago, and retweets statements posted by white nationalists — and generally appeals to people’s basest instincts.

Publius repeatedly seeks to demonstrate how the Constitution will be uniquely capable of preventing corruption, including from “foreign gold” (Federalist 55); such corruption, he argues, would have to penetrate several branches of government to succeed undetected. (He also suggests that the incorruptibility of the Continental Congress should assure readers the proposed new government would be similarly immune to outside interference.) Yet students wonder whether the president’s failure to divest himself of various investments has specifically invited such corruption. And they wonder how Americans might even discover evidence of such corruption, given his concealment of his financial records, even after Congress has demanded it.

Publius insisted that by providing a buffer between the people and the direct election of their president, the electoral college was designed to provide a “moral certainty, that the office of president, will seldom fall to the lot of any man, who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” namely, “ability and virtue” (Federalist 68). To rebut that argument, my students point to the president’s flouting of established legal, political, institutional and moral norms, and even his penchant for petty name-calling.

The authors of “The Federalist” also thought that Congress — particularly the Senate — would tamp down the passionate excesses of the people, should they be stimulated by “artful misrepresentations” from any source (Federalist 63). But now my students watch as senators hold their tongues, terrified of being ridiculed on the president’s Twitter feed or angering Trump’s base.

Some students now see the Constitution as a flawed document, destined from the beginning to fail; for others, it has simply outlived its usefulness.

One might be tempted to explain the turn against “The Federalist,” and the Constitution, by arguing that students have been primed by leftist professors to reject everything associated with dead white men and the Western canon. But I continue to teach Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke and Tocqueville to generally approving classrooms. Students still delight in the insights to be gained from debating topics including Plato’s philosopher-rulers and Rousseau’s concept of the “general will.” Their skepticism seems limited to this one book.

The great danger in all this, it seems to me, is foreshadowed in “The Federalist” itself. In Federalist 49, Publius defends the choice to make amending the Constitution so difficult. Too many changes, too quickly, would “deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on every thing, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.” Without respect for the foundational law of the nation, he worries, the republic would become unstable and perhaps even collapse — the fate of Rome and all previous republics, as he well knew.

Americans have been working for well over two centuries to build that “veneration” that successful constitutions require — yet Trump is eroding it. His election and subsequent behavior is diminishing respect for the entire system the Framers created. And once people lose faith in the constitutional order, politics can, as Publius suggested, spiral out of control.

The Framers insisted that, despite how hard it is to amend the Constitution, the people would always retain the right to remedy future problems. But as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once cautioned, as states grow older, fixing structural problems becomes ever harder: “The people [in long-established republics] cannot bear even having someone touch their faults to get rid of them, like those stupid and cowardly invalids who tremble at the sight of a doctor.” Yet if citizens overcome that hesitation, he added, a sickly republic can be “reborn from its own ashes and, eluding death’s embrace, recapture the vigor of youth.”

The most promising way to redeem the Constitution may be for Congress to embrace the uniquely constitutional solution of impeachment, which Publius envisions as the proper response to the profound “abuse or violation of some public trust” (Federalist 68). The revelations of the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III clearly establish such violations. The remaining question is whether Congress — “whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country” (Federalist 10) — will do what’s necessary to save the system.

Dana Milbank: Trump’s raison d’etre is white power

Washington Post of June 1, 2019

I take the first two paragraphs and many of the ideas in what I have written below from Dana Milbank’s op ed piece. Trump’s Raison d’etre is White Power.

“We tend not to realize how much of the president’s appeal is about race. Studies show the primary indicator of support for Trump isn’t economic insecurity but racial resentment. This doesn’t mean Trump supporters are torch-carrying racists; it means they fear losing their place…”

“And this is largely why the daily mayhem of the Trump presidency has no discernible effect on support for Trump: not the petty (the White House ordering John McCain’s name covered on a Navy ship); not the ludicrous (the Energy Department rebranding liquid natural gas “molecules of freedom”); not the insidious (Trump continuing to allege a “Russian hoax” and his own innocence after special counsel Robert Mueller demonstrated otherwise); not the ugly (Trump resisting disaster aid for Puerto Rico for months, and GOP lawmakers this week blocking the legislation); and not the inhuman (migrant children held illegally, and dying, at the border). All of this pales against the existential threat to traditional white America from what it perceives as nonwhite interlopers.”

Yes, that’s right, Trump supporters live in “fear losing their place.” [place meaning white skinned supremacy] And they fear no less, if they’re Senators or Representatives, losing their jobs if Trump’s base were ever to turn from them.

The current brouhaha over the census question is an illustration of what Trump is continuing to do in support of white supremacy, not the same as gerrymandering but much like it in respect to the results. Both would put down the darkskinned immigrant populations. Although they will eventually fail they seem now that they would like to take others down with them in defeat.

Wilbur Ross, Trump’s man and toady at the Commerce Department, is proposing that a citizenship question be placed on the 10 year census questionnaire. Although it’s been tried before it’s never been been done. The constitution wants everyone counted (except the Indians who pay no taxes).

But you may ask what’s wrong with having a citizen question on the census? Why shouldn’t counting us involve counting us as citizens? Well, for one thing (other than the fact that it never has been) a citizens count would mean that millions of us would not be counted (how many, 11-15 million residents who are not yet citizens?).

And why is this important? Well the 10 year annual count does two very important things. It determines the number of representatives there will be to the House for each state. And since the non-citizen residents are mostly dark skinned immigrants their being removed from the census would favor the position of the remaining numbers of white skinned residents.
Then too you might ask, and I’m sure there will be judges on the Supreme Court who will be asking this, why shouldn’t citizenship be all important in the 10 year count? Well as I say it never was, nor was it ever intended to be so. And now if enacted it would definitely be favoring one race over other races. And I don’t think, at least I hope so, that we don’t want to do that. Shouldn’t a president’s only real job, or if you prefer most real job, be to bring us together and a citizenship question on the census would do just the opposite.

How many non citizens live in the United States? Here’s the answer I find on Wikipedia: Approximately 43.3 million foreign-born people live in the United States, that which includes 20.7 million naturalized U.S. citizens and 22.6 million non-citizens as of Apr 20, 2017.

We are told that within a quarter-century, white Americans will no longer be the majority. While this needn’t be a loss for white people — immigration isn’t zero-sum — but Trump’s GOP has convinced his followers it is. Therefore, preserving white power becomes essential, and the citizenship question buys time.

Here’s where we are now: The Supreme Court has just a few weeks left to decide whether to endorse the Trump administration’s proposal to add a citizenship question to the census.

Our land is exceptional. Let’s keep it that way.

And we’ll do that by keeping the country open to the successive waves of immigrants, made up of peoples of all ethnic and racial origins, who have always come here, and who always will if we don’t try to stop them. For our greatness as a country has always depended on people wanting to come here, and our having “open,” not closed borders, no walls.The wall of Robert Frost is the only wall in my own life I’ve ever acknowledged. No, there’s also the wall that keeps my neighbor’s dog off my front yard.

Think about it, what has the Great Wall ever done for China, other than bring on, if only in part, the tourist trade? Did it ever stop the invasion of barbarian peoples from the North that it was intended to do? Do you know? I don’t have any idea myself but I’d say probably not.  In the history books haven’t barbarians always won? If Trump’s wall were ever built it would at best, including the tunnels underneath it, become a tourist attraction. I can see it now, going with friends for a great lunch in Tijuana by the tunnel route.

Isn’t it well known (except by our president and cronies) that the strength of our country has always been based on two factors. The one is the richness of the land, land that was just meant to be settled and worked (and well treated). Other lands, I think of Canada and Australia, that are probably not as rich and welcoming as ours, and have not drawn the numbers of immigrants we have.

The other factor is the wave after wave of immigrants that we have known, beginning with the very oldest Americans who came here some tens of thousands of years ago, and then going right up to the second (or third or fourth) discovery of America) in 1492 which “discovery” was almost immediately followed by the coming here quite illegally of the western Europeans. Actually aren’t the white supremacists mostly descendants of illegal immigrants? In any case these peoples, the Europeans, came here, settled here, and finally turned against, revolted from their countries of origin, and wasted no time in Philadelphia in 1787 drawing up the detailed plans for a new country of their own.

This new country is the one that most of us know as America, where we are now living. What was left out of consideration at the time of its creation, however, at the moment of our Declaration of Independence, were the huge waves of migrants, well not migrants but immigrants, the hundreds of thousands of black Africans, who were brought here by hired help, as it were, held in chains and upon their arrival made up the slave populations of the uncompensated workers of the Americas. Between 1525 and 1866 12.5 million Africans were shipped (the ship’s hold being like a ship’s container boxes, holding in cramped spaces, men and women, not the material goods of China and the United States) to the new world. Of these numbers of men, women, and children some 10.7 million survived the trip, or “Middle Passage,” to get here. A least at that time no one ever told them,  there was no more room. Like now there was plenty of room.

It almost seems there have been three populations of newcomers to America, starting with what I’m calling the second or third discovery of America, in 1492. First were those who came freely, without vetting, without papers of any sort, but usually with white skin, and who when once here took pretty much what they were able to seize for themselves, although with the consent of the authorities, what there were of these at the time, of available land and resources.

These light skinned populations of immigrants are no longer coming here. But it’s not because there’s no more room, no more resources to be expropriated. Maybe at the time of the next European Civil War, which will be World War III, the Europeans  will begin again to come, but for the moment they seemed fixed and content where they are in Europe and even presidential Tweets, wanting Norwegians and other light skinned Northern Europeans, and not wanting the dark skinned peoples from the South, is going to change that.

The second population or wave, contemporaneous with the Europeans and in many instances coming to meet the Europeans’ needs for workers, were the Blacks, whom I’ve already spoken of. The third wave, one that we’re still very much experiencing, in spite of Donald Trump’s clumsy attempts to end it, is that of the Central Americans.

In regard to immigration it’s as if the country has finally realized that it wanted and needed new immigrants, and that these would be easiest to find among the populations of the oppressed, from Ireland, from Eastern Europe, from Southern Europe, again from Africa, from India, from Indochina, from China, and now in great numbers from Central America. These are the populations who want to come here, to live and to work, to have a good life. Nothing wrong with that.

Trump calls them gang members and rapists. Do they look like that to you?


These are the peoples who were not wanted where they were and they chose to leave. And we have become once again as it were the safety valve to all the dangerous and insupportable pressure points of the world. Those who are here, and doing well, and who would turn their back to these peoples, saying such unthinking and unfeeling things as, we need a wall between us, we don’t have any room for them, they’re threatening us,…  how do they who say these things live with themselves? (Perhaps by watching television for hours on end, by eating cheese burger after cheese burger, and drinking diet cokes, (even when visiting Shinzō Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan), by never reading a history book….

For in fact we have plenty of room and we need the peoples who want to come. And we know well from our own experience over centuries that these Central Americans, like those migrants of the past, including the dispossessed Native Americans and the enslaved Africans, will add great wealth to the country. Why ever would we try or even want to stop them with barriers of any kind?


Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.      From Vol 2 of Bob Mueller’s “The Report”</p>

Yes, but can he be elected?


What makes Pete Buttigieg so effective, not his age.

The 2020 Candidates: Mayor Pete Buttigieg

May 24

During an interview in Washington on Thursday, The Post’s Robert Costa tried his best to get Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg to say something negative about fellow candidate Joe Biden. Part of the old guard? Defended credit card companies? Responsible for mass incarceration as a result of the 1994 crime bill?

But each time, Buttigieg calmly sidestepped the invitation to go after the former vice president, while using the opportunity to lay out policy differences (“I have a difference of opinion with anybody who favors credit card companies over consumers”), and demonstrating his wonkish knowledge. “And when you look at the circumstances that lead to violence and other harms, you look at the kind of adverse childhood experiences that can set somebody back in life: exposure to violence is one, exposure to drug use is one, incarceration of a parent is one,” he said in discussing the 1994 crime bill. “So, the mass incarceration that may have felt in a knee-jerk way as a way to be tough on crime in the ’90s is now one generation later being visited upon communities today through the absence of parents.”

The politicians who have spent decades in politics rarely show the sort of poise Buttigieg naturally exhibits. That’s not nothing.

Buttigieg’s bluntness, succinctness and even-keeled delivery help him score TV-memorable points. During the same interview, he went after President Trump’s “bone spurs” excuse to get out of fighting in the Vietnam War: “If you’re a conscientious objector, I’d admire that. But this is somebody who, I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multimillionaire to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place.”

Is the president a racist? “If you do racist things and say racist things, the question of whether that makes you a racist is almost academic,” Buttigieg said. “The problem with the president is that he does and says racist things and gives cover to other racists.”

Buttigieg also has begun to use his military service to his advantage. As someone who served in Afghanistan, his response to Trump’s promise to pardon war criminals was a particularly effective. He explained, “If you are convicted by a jury of your military peers of having committed a war crime, the idea that the president is going to overrule that is an affront to the basic idea of good order and discipline, and to the idea of law, the very thing we believe we’re putting our lives on the line to defend.”

In addition, Buttigieg seems comfortable (unlike some of his opponents) in discussing foreign policy. “Tariffs are taxes on Americans — and we talk as if that’s not the case; we forget that Americans are paying them,” he said, sounding like Republicans used to sound before they sold their souls to the devil. In place of tariffs, Buttigieg said we need to deal with China by, among other things, investing in our competitiveness, having a “more orderly disentanglement” of 5G technology and creating “a global framework” where China operates on our terms. (That’s not much detail, but as we know from polling, most voters don’t focus on the topic; they know China is misbehaving, they want someone to solve it in tandem with allies and they like to keep focusing on domestic initiatives that make us stronger.)

When asked what he’d do if Russia again interfered in our elections, Buttigieg said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should expect a “very serious response.” He then explained that “economic, diplomatic and cyber” responses, “both overt and covert,” would be needed.

Without getting into the weeds — which he will not likely be forced to do in a Democratic primary geared toward domestic issues — Buttigieg comes across as calm, informed and disinclined to saber-rattling (which he specifically criticized with regard to Iran).

In sum, Buttigieg stands out because he is remarkably disciplined, can effortlessly show expertise and projects authority on foreign affairs. Most of all, he displays the cool demeanor and wry humor that Democrats admired in President Barack Obama. After Trump’s irrational, loud, insult-driven rhetoric, it’s rather calming listening to Buttigieg.

Buttigieg has a long way to go in fleshing out policy proposals, and in broadening his appeal to minority voters, but …

The politicians who have spent decades in politics rarely show the sort of poise Buttigieg naturally exhibits. That’s not nothing.


San Antonio can’t wait

San Antonio doesn’t have time to wait for Washington to pass an immigration plan

By Robert Rivard, May 16th 2019

Pastor Gavin Rogers, second from left, prays with an asylum seeker from Central America  at Travis Park Church, which is serving as a makeshift shelter, in downtown San Antonio on April 2. (Eric Gay/AP)
Pastor Gavin Rogers, second from left, prays with an asylum seeker from Central America at Travis Park Church, in downtown San Antonio on April 2. (Eric Gay/AP)

There is no time for such standoffs in San Antonio, where asylum seekers released by federal authorities along the border arrive in daily waves at the downtown Greyhound station.

The influx poses a significant challenge. I spent a recent night with migrants as they were welcomed at the bus station and taken to an adjacent migrant resource center and then a nearby church shelter for an overnight stay. San Antonio is a strategic way station, the point on Interstate 35 where asylum seekers see a long journey turn from terror and uncertainty to a first glimpse of a better life. It’s a second, invisible border crossing, evident in the relief on the faces of parents and children alike.

San Antonio has never declared itself a sanctuary city, but it is a city that has always offered it: to Mexicans fleeing revolution 100 years ago; to New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and now, to fleeing Central Americans. A city with a majority-Mexican American population has a culture and history rooted in migration. The harshness of our national politics cannot change that.

Some days, 100 to 125 migrants arrive from the border. This week, the number flared to 200 or more daily. At times, it has been higher. “The migrants arrive only with the clothes they are wearing and what they can carry, and what they can carry in most cases is their young children,” said Colleen Bridger, the city’s senior public-health official who oversees San Antonio’s humanitarian, medical and shelter response. “We get no help or funding from Washington even though we are, in effect, acting as an extension of the federal government by processing and providing vital services to these asylum seekers.”

Bilingual relief workers escort new arrivals from the station to a makeshift migrant resource center inside a city parking garage where the San Antonio Food Bank serves a hot meal. Volunteer physicians and nurses deliver medical attention. Fresh clothing and footwear from Goodwill replaces tattered garments worn on the trek north. Every adult receives a new backpack with a Red Cross blanket, a bag of 20 snacks, soap and toiletries, crayons and a coloring book, a small stuffed animal, a used English-Spanish paperback dictionary, and a reusable water bottle. Sanitary products, over-the-counter medicines and diapers are distributed as needed.

Catholic Charities, which operates its own shelters around the city, helps fund the purchase of bus tickets that will take the migrants to other destinations after spending the night at the nearby Travis Park Church, a Methodist congregation with a history of serving the homeless and welcoming the LGBTQ community.

The aging church hall is a warren of rooms crammed with cots, a haven. Most asylum seekers leave the next morning on buses for their final destinations and waiting family or church sponsors. Immigration court hearings are likely 16 months or more into the future.

Migrants shared with me their harrowing stories of escape — deja vu for a reporter who covered Central America’s civil wars in the 1980s. The lawlessness that has reverberated down over the decades provides the setting that so many impoverished and threatened people seek to escape.

Heidi Serrano, 20, a third-year university student, arrived here 70 days after fleeing her home outside San Pedro Sula, Honduras. A local policeman showed up at her door one night and demanded weekly protection payment of 1,500 lempiras, about $60. “Someone I know … gave the policeman my cellphone number, and he began to track me,” Serrano said. “ He finally told me he would kill me if I didn’t have the money for him by the next day. I fled at dawn.”

Jeremy Herrera Mendoza, a slightly built 12-year-old from Guatemala City, was leaving school when members of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, approached. “I could either join their gang or they would kill my mother and younger brother,” Jeremy said.

The vicious street gang controls many of the poor urban neighborhoods in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Jeremy skipped school for one week to avoid gang members but then returned when his mother, Karen Mendoza Centeno, learned of his truancy. Gang leaders found him again and gave him one day to join or lose his own life.

Jeremy broke down crying as he told his mother the truth. Karen, 33, Jeremy and 9-year-old Abrahám boarded the first bus the next morning to Mexico, abandoning their home and belongings. Mendoza paid $2,500 to a coyote to smuggle them across the Rio Grande on tire tubes. They were then detained by the U.S. Border Patrol.

City official Bridger said San Antonio’s efforts to deliver services to the arriving migrants are straining local budgets, but the city does not intend to stop, regardless of how long the crisis continues.

No end is in sight: Last week a federal official told me 14,000 asylum seekers were awaiting processing that day in detentions centers, tent camps and other makeshift facilities along the border. The next day, that count grew to 18,000.

“At first we said, ‘Let’s gear up for a two-week response,’ ” Bridger said, “We now realize it’s just nonstop, it’s the new normal.”

Robert Rivard is the editor and publisher of the nonprofit Rivard Report in San Antonio.

Adam Schiff: An open letter to my Republican colleagues

Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat, representing California’s 28th Congressional District and chairing the Intelligence Committee of the House wrote on February 6 the following letter to his Republican colleagues.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks on Capitol Hill on Feb. 6.

This is a moment of great peril for our democracy. Our country is deeply divided. Our national discourse has become coarse, indeed, poisonous. Disunity and dysfunction have paralyzed Congress.

And while our attention is focused inward, the world spins on, new authoritarian regimes are born, old rivals spread their pernicious ideologies, and the space for freedom-loving peoples begins to contract violently. At last week’s Munich Security Conference, the prevailing sentiment among our closest allies is that the United States can no longer be counted on to champion liberal democracy or defend the world order we built.

For the past two years, we have examined Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its attempts to influence the 2018 midterms. Moscow’s effort to undermine our democracy was spectacularly successful in inflaming racial, ethnic and other divides in our society and turning American against American.

But the attack on our democracy had its limits. Russian President Vladimir Putin could not lead us to distrust our own intelligence agencies or the FBI. He could not cause us to view our own free press as an enemy of the people. He could not undermine the independence of the Justice Department or denigrate judges. Only we could do that to ourselves. Although many forces have contributed to the decline in public confidence in our institutions, one force stands out as an accelerant, like gas on a fire. And try as some of us might to avoid invoking the arsonist’s name, we must say it.

I speak, of course, of our president, Donald Trump.

The president has just declared a national emergency to subvert the will of Congress and appropriate billions of dollars for a border wall that Congress has explicitly refused to fund. Whether you support the border wall or oppose it, you should be deeply troubled by the president’s intent to obtain it through a plainly unconstitutional abuse of power.

Obstruction of justice is hard to prove, even if Trump makes it look easy. How to prove obstruction of justice: Did the suspect have corrupt intent, and would the actions, if successful, be likely to obstruct the proceeding? President Tariff Man may be learning all the wrong lessons from his trade wars

To my Republican colleagues, hear this: When the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he is implicated, you did not speak out. When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn’t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse.

Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private.

That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.

This will require courage. The president is popular among your base, which revels in his vindictive and personal attacks on members of his own party, even giants such as the late senator John McCain. Speaking up risks a primary challenge or accusations of disloyalty. But such acts of independence are the most profound demonstrations of loyalty to country.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III may soon conclude his investigation and report. Depending on what is in that report and what we find in our own investigations, our nation may face an even greater challenge. While I am alarmed at what we have already seen and found of the president’s conduct and that of his campaign, I continue to reserve judgment about what consequences should flow from our eventual findings. I ask you to do the same.

Congress did its job on the border deal. It needs to do it again by amending the emergency act.

If we cannot rise to the defense of our democracy now, in the face of a plainly unconstitutional aggrandizement of presidential power, what hope can we have that we will do so with the far greater decisions that could be yet to come?

Although these times pose unprecedented challenges, we have been through worse. The divisions during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement were just as grave and far more deadly. The Depression and World War II were far more consequential. And nothing can compare to the searing experience of the Civil War.

If Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, could be hopeful that our bonds of affection would be strained but not broken by a war that pitted brother against brother, surely America can come together once more. But as long as we must endure the present trial, history compels us to speak, and act, our conscience, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Lindsey Graham, a strange fish of a man, or a devil?

I would have to admit that I’ve never known an evil person up close. Nor have I ever known evil itself, other than in written history and literature, probably more in history. Today while reading a notification from Live Science, I read: “Was the infamously cruel Nero really as terrible an emperor as Roman historians have suggested?”

And I would ask the question, was Nero an evil man? Do evil acts, make the perpetrator evil? Nero (A.D. 37 to 68) has long been considered a power-mad  despot whose leadership was defined by terrible acts of violence, such as poisoning a teenage rival, arranging his mother’s assassination, setting a fire that destroyed much of Rome, executing Christians and such. Does this make him evil?

And while thinking about this I asked myself, is President Trump, having shown himself capable of “evil” words and actions, does that make him evil? And the people about the president, those who kowtow to him, evidently for their own personal advantage, in particular Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate leaders, those and others of his sycophantic followers (the largest number being evangelicals making up what is called his “base,”) —those who look on their president, know what’s happening, know that with Trump  the rule of law is no longer paramount, no longer protected, while their president with their help, or at least with their non interference, is  shredding our democracy. By not opposing the irresponsible words and actions, the lies of their president, are these men evil?

Now I find myself even with an “evil” man  in the Oval Office, along with his just as “evil” followers, holding the view that there is no such thing as evil, no such thing in Washington like the devil tempting Faust, the devil tempting Jesus Christ, or Iago betraying and undoing his friend, Othello, nor is there even the devil of our stories and myths, those who dress themselves in devil’s clothes, nor even is there a devil-Nero himself.

If there is evil it has to be in all of us, not in some imagined figure we call the devil. The evil today is, of course, to be found in those who know things are bad but take no action to make things better, and thereby allow things to get worse. In this sense we might even call the Senate Republicans evil. By taking no action they are cutting off the good that could have surrounded them and us through their actions.

To understand what’s happening with Donald Trump one has to give up one’s own beliefs, in particular revise one’s previous conclusion that among the world’s peoples we the Americans were the enlightened ones.  No longer. Trump and his minions, his Evangelical base, have led us away from an adult rule of law, from the voice of reason, in short from responsible behavior.

Trump and company have removed themselves, and a good part of the country along with them, from the two strongest civilizing currents of our recent history —17th. century Science for one (Trump’s science guy doesn’t believe in global warming, in fact, doesn’t believe in science) and two, the 18th century Enlightenment.

Trump himself will have no truck with reason and he has right there with him his millions of followers also having no truck with reason, these including the crazies on the far right, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and Ann Coulter, and the crazies settled in at Fox Nation, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Tucker Carlson. Trump and friends are opposing the best of what we have been as a country up until now. Extraordinary isn’t it, what he has done and that we have let him do it!

Trump by coming to Washington would, as he tells his base at the rallies, drain the swamp and build the wall. He has done neither although he still talks with his base at the rallies about doing both, fearing the loss of his base in 2020 if he doesn’t. But he has probably, if anything, only deepened the swamp by his constant assault on such as goodness, decency, fairness, justice, all those qualities that still could but have not yet, made us a truly exceptional people and nation.

Trump has taken us back to when the country was at its worst, to times when the people were truly divided, to times when E pluribus unum was not accepted, let alone realized. Now it’s MAGA, Trump’s personal mantra and fantasy, which means only that Trump is not familiar with, let alone understood, the country’s past history. In the years to come, years without Trump, MAGA will be treated as a hat and a joke, both of which it is.

How has Trump done  it? Well by his own colossal ignorance of history, by the thousands of lies in his almost hourly if not daily tweets, by the untruths during rare interviews and press conferences, by his choice of corrupt and unqualified individuals for his cabinet, in short, by a succession, through the first two years of his presidency, of myriad thoughtless and irresponsible actions.

He has done it by allowing to come out into the open and prosper the very worse traits of the people chosen to serve him, in particular such as Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and other Republican Senators and Cabinet members. These people, mostly for some reason that escapes me (it can’t be just to hold onto their Senate seats) have become kowtowing, servile followers of their Emperor-President Donald Trump.
Continue reading Lindsey Graham, a strange fish of a man, or a devil?

Donkey Dead? Dead Donkey!

Will the Democrats Wake Up Before 2020?

They have no unifying leader and no clear message — yet. A definitive inquiry into the state of the party.

Photo illustration by Craig Cutler for The Washington Post
Story by Dan Balz
OCTOBER 2, 2018
The Iowa State Fair is an obligatory stop on the road to the White House, a cultural and culinary festival of heartland sensibilities, varied livestock and all manner of unhealthy food. The stands that populate the fairgrounds offer such treats as deep-fried mac and cheese, deep-fried pickles and ice cream nachos, along with the traditional favorites of pork-on-a-stick and foot-long corn dogs. In the summer of 2015, Donald Trump descended on the fair from his helicopter and was mobbed by press and public. On a recent muggy August morning, the arrival of Steve Bullock is far less dramatic.Bullock, 52, the second-term governor of Montana, is dressed in blue jeans, a blue button-down shirt and boots. He ambles down the main street of the fairgrounds virtually undetected. Only a few heads turn as he stops to talk with his friend Tom Miller, Iowa’s long-serving attorney general. Bullock’s political calling card these days is that he is a Democrat who won reelection by four points on the day that Trump was winning his state by 20 points. That won’t get you elected president, but it’s enough to start a conversation. Which is why Bullock is here in Des Moines in the summer of 2018: to start a conversation.

Next summer, the Iowa State Fair will be overrun by presidential candidates. This year, the pickings are slimmer — dark horses and lesser-knowns who might or might not eventually compete for the 2020 nomination. Among the Democrats who have decided to skip the fair are the big three: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Among those who have decided to show up are Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who has already visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties; Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and former HUD secretary; Tom Steyer, the billionaire Californian on a mission to force impeachment proceedings against the president; and Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. As a sign of the times, the swaggering Avenatti, who has never run for office, creates the biggest waves in Iowa with his message that Democrats will need a real fighter — hint! — to topple the president.

Each year, the Des Moines Register sponsors what it calls the Political Soapbox for state and national politicians. The venue consists of a small stage along the fairgrounds’ main drag, a sound system, a few bales of hay and folding chairs for spectators. Politicians take the stage for a few minutes, deliver a speech, answer questions and hope the buzz lasts long enough for them to make their way to see the famous butter cow. It does not always go well: In 2011, Mitt Romney, in a testy exchange with a fairgoer, uttered the famous line that “corporations are people, my friend,” which didn’t do much to create a regular-guy image. In 2015, Trump smartly gave helicopter rides to kids.

As Bullock takes the stage, he finds himself in competition with a children’s Big Wheel race nearby, which is another reason the Soapbox can be a humbling venue. Bullock makes a joke about the tiny three-wheelers screeching along the pavement, offers a few obligatory comments about his connections to Iowa — his mother happens to have been born in the state — and then begins to road-test a message. Trust in government has disappeared, he says. He blames it on lost faith in all institutions and the corrupting influence of money, particularly big money whose origins are hard to trace. He tells the audience, “If we want to address all of the other big issues in our electoral system, in our political system, if we really want to address income inequality, if we want to address health care, if we want to address rights, you’re not going to be able to do it until you’ve also addressed the way that money is corrupting our system.”

He talks about what he’s done in Montana, working with a Republican legislature. “If we can do this in Montana,” he says, “it underscores to me that, look, this isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue; this is an issue about the fundamental trust and faith in our government.” His short speech completed, he takes a few questions. The last person asks whether he plans to run for president. “The question is when will I decide if I’m going to do anything after I serve as governor,” he says playfully. Then more seriously he adds: “Look, I do think that I do have a story of how I’ve been able to bring people together, and I think that’s in part what our country desperately needs. … So right now, what I’m doing is listening, and that’s honestly as far as it goes.” Within 10 days, he will be in New Hampshire.

FROM LEFT: Steve Bullock: The second-term governor of Montana says trust in government has disappeared. Michael Avenatti: The lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels has never run for office. Julián Castro: The former HUD secretary says he thinks people are looking for someone who is inclusive. (Photos from left: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press, Ethan Miller/Getty Images, Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Continue reading Donkey Dead? Dead Donkey!

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité